Preview: NYCFC vs Columbus Crew

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JACK HAZZARD

Fighting for a second place finish. That’s what is up for grabs for New York City FC this weekend as they host the Columbus Crew.

After last weekend’s disappointing result against fellow Eastern Conference club D.C. United, NYCFC found themselves eliminated from the hunt for this year’s Eastern Conference Title. Down three points from the top and facing a mighty tiebreaking mark against the Red Bulls, New York City FC find themselves behind their first place rivals.

Although the East’s title is out of grasps, Sunday’s final MLS regular-season match against the Columbus Crew still plays a massive role in New York’s season, being the decider between a second place and a third place finish in the East. Only one point behind New York, in-form Toronto FC take on the last-place Chicago Fire, meaning Patrick Vieira and company will need to put in a triumphant effort if they hope to successfully claim the East’s second spot.

Opposing NYC is the Columbus Crew, who after making it to the MLS Finals last season have fallen from grace, currently resting ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Will New York achieve a win in their last regular season match or will they slip up and surrender their second place spot?


Match Information

Sunday, October 23rd at Yankee Stadium, 4:00 pm ET Kickoff

Watch: YES Network, MLS Live

Listen: WFAN.com, 92.7 FM Que Buena

Stream: nycfc.com/radio

Referee: JOSE CARLOS RIVERO
AR1: Corey Parker
AR2: Eric Weisbrod
4TH: Jorge Gonzalez

2016 MLS Records:

NYCFC: 51 points (14 wins, 9 draws, 10 losses)

Columbus Crew: 36 points (8 wins, 12 draws, 13 losses)

Projected Lineups:

NYCFC: Josh Saunders; Jason Hernandez, Frederic Brillant, Jefferson Mena, R.J Allen; Andrea Pirlo, Andoni Iraola, Tommy McNamara; Khiry Shelton, David Villa (C), Jack Harrison

Columbus Crew: Brad Stuver; Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst (C), Nicolai Naess, Corey Ashe; Will Trapp, Mohammed Saeid, Tony Tchani; Cristian Martinez, Justin Meram, Adam Jahn


The NYCFC Attack v Columbus’ Defense

Khiry Shelton, David Villa (C), and Jack Harrison vs.  Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst (C), Nicolai Naess, and Corey Ashe (and Brad Stuver)

New York City FC’s offense has nearly tallied the most goals scored in the MLS this season with 58 (NYRB has 59). Led by former Spanish International and current captain David Villa, New York has accumulated 22 goals this season from their main striker, resulting in Villa standing only one goal behind current Golden Boot leader Bradley Wright-Phillips. Opposing the 34-year-old Spanish striker is the Columbus Crew defense, who has looked undeniably inconsistent this year. After making the terrific cup run to the MLS final last year, the Crew’s defense has been a shadow of its former self. Attempting to reignite the defense, Columbus acquired Stabaek defender Nicolai Naess in late July, hoping he would reshape their squad. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old Norwegian has struggled to fully integrate himself in the Crew’s defense, resulting in further complications for Gregg Berhalter’s side.

Advantage: NYCFC


Crew’s front line v the NYCFC back line

Cristian Martinez, Justin Meram, and Adam Jahn vs. Jason Hernandez, Frederic Brillant, Jefferson Mena, and R.J. Allen (and Josh Saunders)

Scoring seven in their last three matches, the Columbus Crew have found ways week-in-and-week-out to put the ball into the back of the net. Grabbing his own goal over the weekend against the Red Bulls, 25-year-old striker Adam Jahn will look to continue his consistent growth. Failing to make an impression in his three years with the San Jose Earthquakes, Jahn has rekindled his career with his time in Columbus, scoring four goals in 11 appearances for the Ohio-based side. Taking a stance against the former Standford alum is NYCFC’s defense, who look in shambles following last weekend’s disastrous result against D.C. United. Playing without key starters such as Ronald Matarrita, R.J. Allen, and Maxim Chanot due to injury, New York has continued to struggle to find a reliable and durable back line.

Advantage: Even


Midfielders

Andrea Pirlo, Andoni Iraola, and Tommy McNamara vs. Will Trapp, Mohammed Saeid, and Tony Tchani

Residing as the Crew’s most consistent starters this season, Columbus’ midfield has been the heart of their team throughout the 2016 MLS season. Suffering the transfer and injury blows of Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain, the Crew’s midfield was what remained unchanged following last year’s defeat in the league’s championship. Although stable, the Crew’s midfield has struggled to grind out results for Berhalter’s side, frequently disappearing on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field. Clashing against the Crew in the center of the field this weekend is NYCFC’s exciting midfield. Consisting of European veterans Andrea Pirlo and Andoni Iraola, New York has the capability to run over Columbus this Sunday. However, in NYCFC’s most recent match against D.C. United, New York’s midfield looked underwhelming.

Advantage: Even


The Coaches

Patrick Vieira vs. Gregg Berhalter

Leading his club unexpectedly to the MLS Cup Final last season against the Portland Timbers, Gregg Berhalter earned himself praise and plaudits throughout the league. However, following this season’s collapse, it is difficult to hold Berhalter in such high reverence. Opposing the 43-year-old American manager is NYCFC’s Patrick Vieira, who has been regarded as one of Major League Soccer’s best managers this season. Much like Berhalter last year, Vieira has led his side to unpredictable success.

Advantage: Even


Intangibles

In the season’s past two contest among the clubs, the Columbus Crew has proven to be New York’s kryptonite. Drawing in their first outing on August 19th at MAPFRE Stadium, NYCFC found themselves losing 2-1 to the Crew 10 days later at Yankee Stadium; a rare sight to see in the Bronx as of late. Concluding their three-game road trip at Yankee Stadium, the Crew will hope to finish their season with a win, forgetting last week’s 3-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls.

Advantage: Even


Prediction

Having little to play for, the Columbus Crew may potentially play an experimental eleven as they conclude their disappointing season. Fighting for a strong playoff spot, New York will lay everything on the line this weekend to finish their enormous 2016 MLS season right. Although the match seems even, New York will narrowly win 2-1 in their final regular season game.